CORRUPT former senior government lawyer Warwick Reid yesterday appealed in person to Hong Kong's top judges for the chance to argue that the Governor should have reduced his jail sentence by more than one year. The challenge to the Governor's prerogative of mercy is unprecedented, but Reid said that if it were not reviewable it would make a mockery of the criminal legal justice system. Governor Chris Patten reduced Reid's eight-year jail sentence by one year last July, although the Chief Justice had recommended a three-year reduction if Reid testified against his co-accused. Reid, 46, yesterday said he had not expected the Chief Justice's recommendation to be ''thrown into the wastepaper basket of Government House''. He argued that judges, not politicians, were uniquely qualified to decide on what basis sentences should be reduced, and therefore the Governor should have acted on Sir Ti Liang Yang's recommendation. Reid, who was allowed to sit at counsel's bench, where he was guarded by two Correctional Services Department officers, urged the court to supervise the criminal justice system and to inquire into the circumstances of how the Governor exercised mercy to offenders. He pointed out that this takes place behind closed doors and no reasons were given. He said many prisoners had to rely on the Governor's mercy rather than the Court of Appeal to achieve justice as the court's policy was to pass sentence immediately on someone who had offered to testify against co-accused. After they finished their testimony it would normally be too late to appeal against their sentence and they would have to petition the Governor to reduce their sentence in return for their co-operation. When an offender assisted the authorities and testified for them, invariably a lesser sentence would be passed, and a reduction was not accorded as a favour, but as a matter of justice, he added. ''If it can be shown that clear disparity exists between the sort of sentence an accomplice witness would be required to serve had the case been dealt with by the High Court, as compared with the executive's view, then the executive's decision should be reviewable as unreasonable,'' Reid submitted. The Court of Appeal, comprising Mr Justice Litton, Mr Justice Bokhary and Mr Justice Liu, reserved its decision until Wednesday. In August, Reid failed to get his case off the ground when Mr Justice Godfrey refused leave for a judicial review of the Governor's decision on the grounds it was unreasonable. If Reid is given leave to argue for a judicial review, he will ask for a declaration that the Governor was bound to give effect to the Chief Justice's recommendation. The Crown, represented by Robert Tang QC, said the court should not interfere as there was nothing unreasonable about the Governor's decision. Instead, he said Reid should appeal to the Court of Appeal. In reply, Reid said he would be happy to appeal, if he were able to. However, he pointed out that he had already abandoned his appeal more than three years ago and he would be unlikely to get another hearing. Reid, a former deputy director of public prosecutions, pleaded guilty in 1990 to having assets disproportionate to his salary. He is due to be released in November.